I grew up in the 1950s in a middle-class home. My father was a bank manager and my parents used to play ABC radio a great deal. There was a lot of Jim Gussy and his ABC Dance Band, popular 50s music and the occasional classical concert. They would tune into a broadcast from the Sydney Town Hall, but it didn’t grab me at that early age.

Classical music first hit me when a friend took me to a concert at the [former] Sydney Stadium. I was 18 and had just started going to university. Karel Ančerl was conducting the Czech Philharmonic in Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and it totally blew me away. I’d never experienced live orchestral music at close range; it was quite astonishing.

John Bell. Photo © Pierre Toussaint

That was my conversion and from then on, I would save my pennies every week and run down to a little record shop in the city where I bought tapes and occasional 45s. I couldn’t afford the larger 33s, but the very first album I bought was an LP of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons...